After a prolonged absence due to the winter lockdown restrictions, last weekend we welcomed the first mountain bike cross-country action of the year, with riders taking in the Bank Holiday sunshine at the first round of the Southern XC MTB Series in Reading.
Taking place under British Cycling’s The Way Forward guidance, the event welcomed over 500 participants across the day’s races, with categories spanning from Under-10s to Super Vets. Sharn Hooper (WXC World Racing) and Christopher Rothwell (BW Cycling Team) were the winners in the two elite category races, with the full results listed here.
A wide range of Covid-secure measures were enforced to ensure the safety of all riders, volunteers, officials and other event attendees. These included: online entry only to limit contact points; protective screens in waiting areas; provision of hand sanitiser; socially distanced gridding; management of entry, exit and warm-up areas; and course modifications to enable easier overtaking.
Southern XC MTB Series event organiser, Adam Buckland, said:
“We were fortunate to be one of the events to run races last year, which partly prepared us for this, but it was exciting to get racing back going again. We implemented what we did last year with the addition of some extra measures, with the support of British Cycling, and it was great to be part of the return to racing again.
“The enthusiasm and appetite to get out and race is overwhelming. People just want to get out and enjoy it, and alongside that there’s a social element of seeing people that they race against that they haven’t seen for over a year in some cases. They’re happy to compromise in the sense of obeying social distancing measures and listening to our instructions, and the compromises in their eyes are small ones.
“The desire for people to ride their bikes is so huge that selling places at the moment is as easy as it has ever been, so we now just need to get the events out in front of people.”
Demonstrating the incredible appetite for racing opportunities, rounds two and three of the series in the New Forest (25 April) and Basingstoke (9 May) are already fully booked, with places already very limited for round four at Holywell Estate. More information on the series can be found here.
The success of the event has also provided British Cycling with valuable learnings as the organisation steps up its preparations for the 2021 HSBC UK | National Cross-country Series, with more details to be published next week.
British Cycling Regional Events Officer, Mark Doel, said:
“The Southern XC MTB Series is renowned for the friendly welcome it offers to riders of all abilities, which made it the perfect place to kick off the year’s racing.
“It was fantastic to see the way in which riders and other attendees supported the Covid mitigation measures in place, ensuring a safe and supportive environment for all, and the event has provided us all with invaluable learnings and experience as we look to welcome back more events from across the disciplines in the weeks and months ahead.”
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